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Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Matter of Perspective

This morning when I got to the rink, a little 5-year-old skater pretended to hide behind the boards, jumped up and yelled "BOO!" She loves to scare me!

I have also noticed that her elder sister (who has been in Canada) is back this week. So, I asked her, "Are you happy your sister is back?", and she replied, "Yes!" She did look quite happy, and initiated another conversation with me...

Little skater: How old are you?
Me: Can you guess?
Little skater: Fourteen?
Me: Fourteen? That's so young!
Little skater: Oh, you are older than my sister!

This little girl always makes me smile!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zamboni drives through Burger King

Midnight Zamboni run prompts firings (from Yahoo News)
Idaho Zamboni joy-riders fired (from King 5)

When I first heard this, I thought they literally drove into Burger King. No, all they did was to take the zambonis on a ride through the Burger King drive-through!

Strange things happen!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why am I getting left out?

Seems like I'm being left out of announcements...

Well, for a start, I never received any information about Oberstdorf. This year when I went, I almost panicked a week before I was leaving for Europe, 'cos I didn't know where to go or what to do if I did get there!

In fact, I still didn't know how things were supposed to work when I managed to get there. And after I'm back from there, I still don't know that we can order photos and videos. I'm sure we can/could 'cos other skaters are talking about not having received their DVD, but I'm blissfully ignorant of such problems!

So, when the announcement for next year's competition came out, guess what? Right-on! I did not know about it. Ok fine, I do now, thanks to my many friends... :-)

This is not the first competition announcement I got left out of. My club was left out of the announcement for our very own National competition! We are still wondering how to look out for email we don't know we were supposed to get!

Announcement for 2007 ISU Adult Competition

The ISU International Adult Competition 2007 will be held on 24 - 27 May 2007 at Oberstdorf, Germany.


Website, with more information

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christmas Rink at Suntec City

In December, there will be a temporary rink set up at Suntec City. The Singapore Ice Skating Association will have the ice from 18 - 23 December, and will host public skating sessions, as well as two performances a day.
Link to the Event Poster (on SISA website)

There was a call for volunteers to perform or help out with the sessions. Some of us adults have got together to plan for a group number... uhh... but that was before I saw that it is advertised as "Kids on Ice". Oh well, we will still be kids!

Anyway, given the space and cooling costs, do not expect the rink to be big. Oh, I mean, expect the rink to be just 7m by 7m. Yes, that is all... I am still trying to imagine how to fit things in such a size.

Two weeks ago, I measured distance on the ice using the length of my blade, and found that the two blue lines at the middle of the rink at Fuji Ice Palace are 7m apart. (Of course, it was only later that I realised I could have just asked the office how far apart the blue lines were.) Ok, I can do spins in there - doesn't seem too bad... BUT when I tried the Axel, it was impossible!!! Will need to come up with some creative use of space (both ice and non-ice) to make up something feasible.

I am curious which Australian group it is who are doing the other performances.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Recognizing jumps

Is it very hard for non-skaters to recognize jumps??

In a discussion with a fellow adult skater, we were talking about how the association is looking to train judges, and how, maybe parents should start getting involved. She pointed out that many non-skaters have difficulty recognizing jumps, citing as examples previous judges' training sessions where some of the mothers did indeed have

So, out of curiosity, I tried it out on my DH last night.

I think there are three stages to recognizing jumps.
First, to know the names/definition of each jump.
Next, to be able to recognize the edge a skater is on.
Lastly, to be able to recognize the jump while it is done.

The first stage is probably not too difficult - after all, its mostly a matter of remembering the definitions of each jump. My DH tried to visualize how each of those jumps would be, and was able to tell me, after some analysis, which seemed easier and which seemed like they would be harder.

The second stage was harder. Funny I always thought it was intuitive - I mean, if you are on the right foot and pressing on the outside edge, there's pretty much only one direction you can go, right?? Oh well, apparently it wasn't all that obvious. And after figuring out edges and direction, actually seeing what edge a skater is on is not all so straightforward!!!

The last stage is probably the worst. Partly because of the many different types of entries, partly because everything happens so fast, and also partly because the entry edge for the toe jumps are usually not very deep.

Overall, my DH did well. He picked up little tips like subsequent jumps in combination would be toe loop or loop, looking out for the Lutz, etc. Sure enough, there has to be a certain skill involved, but I believe there are many parents out there who are capable of doing it!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hard ice and ROH

When I got my skates sharpened in NJ, Jim told me the ROH was 9/16. I was a little surprised, as I had been convinced the ROH of my blades was 7/16" as is advertised for Pattern 99 blades! I mean, I never had the ROH changed...

In any case, I like it this way, and especially after he sharpened them. Back in Singapore, I have enjoyed sharp blades for the last 5 weeks, although there were several occassions, usually when the ice is hard, where the entry edge for the Axel or double Sal felt like it was sliding across the ice!

Then, this morning, I tried figures. Nothing fancy, just forward outside and inside edges. BUT the ice was hard. Terribly hard... and I could literally feel my blade starting to move sideways! EESH!!!

To top it off, the ice was not fresh. There were so many marks on it I had problem finding my own tracing. Heck I couldn't even make out where I started! Forget it... I gave up after 3 minutes.

[Afternote: In case some of you are wondering what ROH is, it is the radius of the hollow between the two edges of a blade. It also referred to as the grind.]

Wyandotte 2007

The Deborah Burgoyne North American Invitational, hosted by the Wyandotte Figure Skating Club, will be held on February 17, 2007.

The announcement is on the website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Talent, Intelligence and Passion

I once asked my coach, how she knows if a beginner skater is talented. She replied, through experience.

At that time, I had just started coaching. I was trying to find that magic formula to decide how talented those beginner skaters were. Naturally, I started with how the skater takes to the ice.

There are those who are fearless, and not minding the falls. They jump onto the ice, fall down, hop up, skate a bit, fall down, hop up... etc.
There are those who are scared and tense, gingerly putting one foot on the ice, then the other, wobble a bit, and grope around for something to hold on to...
There are those who are steady and calm, knowing that they have to maintain balance and trying to do it.

Which is talented? It all depends!

Argh... such an excruciating reply. But in real life, that first step on the ice does not tell much. And after years of observation, one starts to realise that there is no magic formula - at least not one that is instant. It takes interaction with the skater and some instruction to assess how talented the skater is.

There is something I would like to call "skating intelligence". It is related to same intelligence as in IQ. After all, skating is about physics and dynamics rather than sheer strength and power. The beauty of figure skating shines in those who can make it look effortless.

But there is more to it than just pure intelligence. It is also how the skater responds to instruction and the skater is able to use the correct muscles to help to adapt the body to the right.

I had a little girl do an "introduction class" with me two nights ago. When she started, she looked unstable, and her ankles were wobbly. However, she took to instruction very well, and responded intelligently. Within 10 minutes, she had corrected her posture, her strokes, and was doing glides on one foot. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but way improved from before the lesson! Toward the end of class, I had her try the pivot... She entered it with some speed and flow, and easily went around. She has something going for her there...

Another little girl started lessons with my coach at the beginning of this year. It seems not-to-long-ago when I watched her learning crossovers, with hardly any power in her stroking. Now, she's happily working on salchow and toe loops, and will be competing in the ISI Freestyle 3 in the competition in a few weeks' time. It is amazing how she has progressed! When I mentioned this to the girls father, he said, "its a matter of interest. she really likes skating."

Sure enough, talent alone is not enough. Interest and passion is what makes the difference in a skater's progress. Unfortunately, figure skating is full of plateaus (sorry, that was too optimistic - what it really it is is a lot of ups and downs) AND the difference between a skater who is passionate and wants to skate, and a skater who does not really care is that the former will persevere to overcome the plateaus while the latter would give up.

At the end of the day, success is 1% talent and 99% perseverance!

Singapore National Figure Skating Championships 2007

6th Singapore National Figure Skating Championships
will be held on
31 Mar & 1 Apr 2007
Fuji Ice Palace, Singapore

The announcement is available on the Singapore Ice Skating Association website.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Competition Events

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have decided to enter the artistic event in competition - amongst other events.

Now, what exactly are the other events, I can't really remember. What I can remember is telling my coach that I didn't want to do anything that requires choreographing another program (as well as persuading him dancing with me, but that's beyond hope). I vaguely recall putting in Dance and Figures, and maybe solo compulsories, on a whim. Then he signed it, and suggested I could do "jump and spin" with another student of his - he would check and confirm.
Yesterday, l tried figures - just Figure 1, since I can't do a nice enough BO edges to pass Figure 2. My coach comes up to me and asked, are you competing in this? I said, I don't know. You signed the paper, you should know!
I suppose the "jump and spin" event should be confirmed... forgot to ask him!
Anyway, the artistic program is coming along easily. Never have I done a program with just 2 jumps, 2 spins and a spiral sequence. Lots of time to think, breathe, glide and wave my arms around in between! Oh, wait a minute... this morning I thought a little more about it, and realised that, hey, I can turn this artistic program into a freestyle program by just adding another 30s of music, during which I put in the required "dance step sequence". I mean, I either do or have a space to do each of the other required elements in Freestyle 6! Sheesh, how did it end up that way??!!
If anyone is wondering why I'm still in Freestyle 6 after all these years, here's why:
1. I cannot land that #*$@#& double toe consistently to pass FS7. (erm, not that the d Sal is any more consistent, but... haha, old story!)
2. I cannot do a 1-ft Axel. I cannot make anything land on the "wrong" foot these days - that is why I'm not doing FS6 freestyle because of the 1/2 loop requirement in the Axel 1/2-loop flip combination.
3. I refuse to do a walley, let alone two walleys in a row.
If I can get these out of the way, the FS7 test would be no problem. But what for?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Diplomatic Position for Michelle Kwan

Condoleeza Rice has announced Michelle Kwan as the first public diplomacy envoy.
Read the full text or view the video on the US Department of State website.

Secretary Rice said,
So one of Michelle's greatest objectives will be to engage and spark dialogue with young people all around the world. By helping to tell America's story through her own story, Michelle will foster understanding of our democratic principles and the rich diversity of our people."

ABC News reports that Michelle is not paid for this job!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cards and Lessons

This morning, my students, 2 sisters, forgot to bring their lesson card.

Ok, some background first:
The rink here sells lessons in sets of 5. For each set, the skater will get a lesson card that lists the dates for the 5 lessons. This card will be signed against the relevant date as they come in for lesson. Coaches will then be paid a commission for lessons that are conducted. Yes, this is a wonderful way of keeping track of it all!

It is inevitable that cards sometimes get left behind, lost, etc. The rink has a policy of "no card, no lesson". They do also charge a fee to replace cards.

Previously, I had students forget cards. What do they do?
1. Go home to get it. (only for those staying really close by!)
2. Call someone at home to bring it. (for those staying not-too-far-away)
3. Pay for a replacement card. (if skater is willing to do that!)
4. Pay for following set of lessons and use that instead.
5. Cancel this week's lesson and postpone to next week.

Would anyone disagree that #5 is horribly unfair to the coach? We are there, the skater is there, and yet we have to sit around doing nothing while missing out on the commission for the lesson. So, I would usually try to use solutions #1, 2, 3 or 4.

So, back to the story...
This morning, the sisters were willing to pay for their next set of lessons, but... get this: they cannot do that because they had not yet put in a request for the next set of lessons, and they cannot put in a request for today's lesson because all requests have to be approved by the office before they can pay for & start lessons!!

Every rink works differently and I respect that. The skating school at the rink here takes care of lessons, fees, and scheduling. Policies are set to protect the business. While I do appreciate that this removes the burden of coaches having to deal with money issues, I find it hard to accept the inefficiency the rigidness of the system leads to.

There's got to be a better way to deal with such things...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Wild Skating

Not in Singapore...
In countries where rivers and lakes freeze over in the winter, wild skating is starting to gain popularity. It is essentially cross-country skating.

This month, Condé Nast Traveler Magazine ran an article: The Rush of Black Ice on wild skating on Lake Champlain.
Some photos of tours across Lake Chaplain.

It sounds really cool (and cold), and I would love to try it out one day. Makes me wonder how I could have been in upstate NY for 4 years, yet never came close to trying such a thing. Yeah, why is it that I have never skated outdoors??

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Me and the boards

Wonder why I have such affinity to the boards - I love to crash into them!

Long ago, during a stroking session at Lansing, I caught the back inch of my blade during back crossovers and the speed send me sliding across the ice all the way to the boards on the far end.

That is the only boards incident in a full-size rink that I can recall. The rest (below) happen in the rink here...

All too often, I would be working on a dance, or a field move, and bang into the boards.

During one of the Association tests, I was supposed to do the field moves involving BI3 (ok, I admit I don't remember exactly how those go now). I got too close, blade skated into the ridge between the edge of the ice and the boards, and I just slid down.

Working on the Fiesta Tango for the very first Mountain Cup I went into the FI mohawk for the end-pattern. The next thing I knew, I had slammed into the doorway - someone had left the door open! OUCH!

Last week, I was working on the double toe, tried to avoid a skater and brought the jump farther down the rink than usual. The moment I landed, wham into the boards! One of the older lady skaters told me, "you should be more careful!" I was thinking, "yeah, if I hadn't been careful, it would have been that girl, not the boards!"

This morning, again on the BI3, I suddenly saw the wall in front of me right after the turn. OOPS, WHAM!!! Here we go again...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why do I still need lessons?

My DH sometimes asks me, "why do you still need lessons?" After all, I manage my own progress, plan & choreograph my own programs, experiment with my own moves (though inevitably, someone else would coincidentally have the same bright spark). Well, here are some reasons:

Accountability and motivation
Lessons => commitment to a coach, fixed schedule => yes, I better go!
It gives some motivation to wake up at 6am to skate. There have been mornings when I wake up groggy and don't feel like skating, yet by the end of the session, I was glad I did!

Supervision and support
My coach is my eyes. When working on a new element (especially those @#$#% doubles) I cannot always feel when something is wrong... Rather, by the time I can feel and correct my own errors, it is when the element is relatively consistent. So of course I need someone to tell me that that double loop was scrunched up in the air, or that the shoulders weren't level...

Break through plateaus
All too often we hit a plateau in skating. It happens to the best. Having a coach will help the skater through such times. I find that the occassional lessons when I'm overseas offers a new perspective which helps - even after I get back.

Progress and results
Figure skating is not a static sport. There is always room to improve, and here is where a coach helps. Learning new moves, and perfecting them... there is so much more to achieve in figure skating it would be rather presumptious to say I know it all and can go it alone.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sit spin, change-edge, fall !!

The stupidity of it all... it has been a long time since I have fallen on a spin. Ok until that last time when I tried change-edge camels... and then again this morning.

Lesson this morning was good. The double Sal and double toe are coming along ok, though they could be better. I also did some decent under-rotated double loops...
- Decent because I stayed upright, on one foot
- Under-rotated because... well, it was definitely under-rotated
- but still more decent than those that flop everywhere

Towards the last 5 minutes of lesson today, my coach wanted to see the change-edge sit spin. I spent more time rolling on the ice than spinning! He got me to do the change-edge upright. To my surprise, it worked! Back to the sit spin... plop on the ice again! ARGH!!!

He asked me to not sit so low... umm... funny how its so hard to hold a high sit spin once you're used to getting down!

Next time, I will try: sit spin -> broken leg -> change edge in half-sit position. Next time...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another shot at dance?

I have been trying to talk my coach into partnering with me for the dance event in this upcoming competition. Our first conversation on Monday went something like this:
Me: why don't you partner me for dance at the competition?
Coach: there won't be time to practise.
Me: I have 2 lessons a week, I'm sure we can put that double loop aside and dance for a while.
Coach: I will get tired, how will I continue to coach after that?
Me: well, you have some free time after my lesson. Take a rest!
Coach: well, I have turned others down, I cannot promise you...
Me: its different, right?? (I was cracking my head trying to think of which other lady would have asked him to partner her for this competition)

The next day, I went to skate and he was coaching someone else. I skated by him and asked, "so, will you dance with me?" He said, "Ok." I could not believe my ears. It was too easy to be true. But he was in the middle of a lesson, I was practising, not a time to chat.

The following day, I was coaching and so was he. We happened to stand close by at one point in time, and I asked again, "you will really dance with me for the competition?" He replied, "yes"

On Friday morning, I had a lesson. I asked what we were doing, and he said "jump, what else?"
I responded: but you are going to dance with me, when can we practise?
He said: did I say I was going to dance with you?
I was taken aback. "Yes, in the competition, right?"
He said, "oh yes, at competition, not now!"

YOU!! You were toying with me!! I spent the next two hours fuming over that.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When a friend quits

Chatting with a friend last night, she disclosed her decision to quit skating. Not just quit skating, but also letting go of all involvement in the skating scene.

She has her reasons. Disillusionment, lack of motivation, lack of inspiration... While there has been indications in previous conversations, I wasn't prepared for such eventuality. I knew she had goals and aspirations, and to quit would be to give those up. She knows that too... but passion cannot be forced.

After our conversation, I wondered if I should have persuaded her to keep skating. I got to know her through skating, and it would be a crime to let her stop mid-way. However, I realise that our friendship has gone beyond that, and I respect her decision. There is more to life than skating (yes, certainly!) and whatever she decides, we will still be friends.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Artistic Program

Somehow, I managed to let my coach talk me into entering the Artistic event. In ISI competitions, this is an event that is judged on - yes, exactly that, artistry! Oh and of course innovative moves, interpretation of music, etc. Just not necessarily jumps and/or spins.

I have never before entered an Artistic event myself, partly because I was always so focused on my freestyle program. This year, I was bemoaning the fact that I can't do a half-loop... the ISI Freestyle 6 program requires a combination jump, specifically the Axel - half-loop - flip. That was the last thing I could put up with. I refused to test the next level because of others

So, my coach had suggested to not enter Freestyle and do Artistic instead.

I watched Mao Asada's short program at Skate America 2006, and marvelled at how she made her entire program look light and effortless. It is such a pity she didn't pull her long program through the same way!

That made me think more about expression and extension when choreographing the Artistic program this evening. Somehow, that seemed easier when I do not have to squeeze in all the required elements. Perhaps entering Artistic instead of freestyle is not that bad an idea!